Hugh Jesse Arnelle
December 30th 1933 - October 21st 2020
Hugh Jesse Arnelle (December 30th, 1933 - October 21, 2020). Jesse died in San Francisco, CA at the age of 86 due to heart disease. Born in New Rochelle, New York, to Hugh Walker and Lynne Chevannes Arnelle, Jess was preceded in death by parents and his 2 older brothers, Hugh Commodore and Juneau David Arnelle. Jess was a graduate of New Rochelle High School and graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1955.
Jesse Arnelle excelled in football and basketball at Penn State University where he led the basketball team to the 1954 NCAA Final Four and was also named both All-American and East Regional Most Valuable Player that season. Jess finished his Penn State basketball career as the program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder (2,138 points and 1,238 rebounds). Drafted in 1955 by both the NFL (the Los Angeles Rams) and the NBA, he chose to play in the NBA with the Fort Wayne Pistons where he played in 31 games.
After professional basketball, Jess served as an officer in the United States Air Force, earned an LLB from Dickinson School of Law and, later, was a Peace Corps Director in Turkey (2 years) and India (1 year). In 1968 he moved to San Francisco. Once licensed to practice law, he sharpened his litigation skills at the San Francisco Federal Public Defenders Office and later entered solo practice in criminal and civil law. In 1987, he teamed with William Hastie to form the law firm of Arnelle & Hastie (later Arnelle, Hastie, McGhee, Willis and Green), which focused on corporate defense litigation. He served as senior partner until his retirement from formal law practice in 1998.
Jess' involvement in the corporate world and his 45 years on the Penn State Board of Trustees experience led to his interest in participating on corporate boards. In addition to his service on the board of directors of URS Corp and Wells Fargo Bank, Jess was an active member on the boards of Waste Management, the Metropolitan Life Series Fund, Textron Corporation, Eastman Chemical Company, Gannett Company, Armstrong World Industries, and Florida Power & Light.
Jesse was elected Penn State's first black student body president in 1954. In 1969 he was elected to the University's Board of Trustees, served as President of the PSU Board of Trustees in 1994-96 and in over 45 years as a Trustee he served the university in many roles, including the President's club, a co-founder of the Penn State Renaissance Fund (to increase and support minority students at Penn State), the Campaign Steering Committee and Penn State's National Development Council. He received the Lion's Paw award, given to distinguished alumni.
Locally, Jess has been active in the Charles Houston Bar Association and he has served as president of the San Francisco African American Historical Society. Jess enjoyed learning languages (Spanish, Turkish, French, Italian, German), world travel, monitoring local, national and international political and world events, and symphonic, dance and jazz music. He was also an avid fly fisherman, camper, and walker. He proudly completed the 300 mile Camino De Compostela six times.
Jess is survived by his wife Carolyn Block-Arnelle, daughter Isis Bastet Arnelle, and son Michael Arnelle. Jess is also survived by his niece, Darrilynne Arnelle-Mazyck (Bernard) and nephew, Derrick Arnelle, and a grandnephew, Nicholas Mazyck.
A San Francisco Viewing will be held Friday, October 30th, from 1pm - 4pm at San Francisco Columbarium & Funeral Home, 1 Loraine Ct, San Francisco, CA 94118. Due to Covid 19 concerns and S.F. City and County regulations, groups of 20 people will be allowed to view and pay their respects during one of the multiple 20 minute time windows. Please contact family to set a viewing time.
A more traditional Memorial service to celebrate his life will be held when Covid 19 subsides and larger events are safe again.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Oct. 24 to Oct. 27, 2020.